Lessons I Learned Volunteering At A Children's Hospital
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Adulting

Volunteering At A Children's Hospital Has Taught Me How Much A Child Can Teach Us

It isn't that they aren't jaded, it's that they don't know how to be.

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Volunteering At A Children's Hospital Has Taught Me How Much A Child Can Teach Us
Nicole Gagliardi

As I walk through the absolutely gigantic, sprawling lobbies of what constitutes UNC Hospitals, I look around at all the different families and faces who make up its patients; I see who must only be loved-ones of a patient, whose pain is tattooed permanently into the bags under their eyes from sleepless, anxiety-filled nights, and just a few feet next to them I see a young woman, newly turned mother, cradling her and her husband's biggest blessing swaddled in the smallest package.

It is hard for me not to think about what "going to the hospital" can mean for each person given the scenario; for the family whose newest accessory is undesired under-eye bags and unkempt hair, "hospital" becomes synonymous with "tragedy." But, for the young couple who came with two people and left with three, it most likely becomes synonymous with being "the best day of their lives."

These are just the thoughts that I take as I cross the short distance between the lobby of the Women's hospital to the lobby of the Children's hospital, and I do this every week; not only do I think about the faces I just saw, but I also think about the fates of those faces from last week, and whose I will see next week. I always try to smile as I walk by them, potentially offer a little eye contact, just to let them know that while I'm an unknown face with an unknown story to them, that I support them.

I walk up to the top floor of Children's where the playroom is, and soon, I and the rest of the volunteers are surrounded with strains of high-pitched laughter and blinded by 1000-watt smiles as kids run around, looking for the best new toy they can play within that instant, and carefully weighing their options for their next toy of choice that they'll pull out in a few minutes.

Sometimes, the kiddos are aware of the reasons for which they are there, and some are overly eager to share why with you; I've seen some running around pushing their IV poles as if it were strange for a child not to be, while others are there as they recover from a physical injury.

In all cases, I've noticed that children always have a certain vivacity and genuine love for all the people and things around them and that they never focus on the reason why they or their sibling is in the hospital, nor do they dwell on the reasons why any other family is there; they want to have fun and be happy and spread that to everyone around them, and so that's what they do, and it's such an amazing phenomenon to participate in.

Unfortunately, as we get older, we are subjected to being witnesses of actions committed by those who don't have the best intentions, and because of this, we can often become jaded, skeptical and cynical of other people and wonder if what they say is truly what they mean. We are always taught to see the best in people, which is something I always make a conscious effort to do, and I'm sure you do as well. We're also exposed to the aspects of life that aren't always pretty or enjoyable; for example, loss, sickness, theft, heartbreak, like the sadness and apprehension that often accompanies visitors to a hospital, as I mentioned earlier. Enough of these experiences could be a reason to wonder if the good in the world truly outweighs the bad, and because we're all humans, we tend to dwell more on the negative than the positive. The cognitive dissonance it causes creates a strange balance between serenity and anxiety.

There is something magical about listening to a toddler confront another toddler about not being able to play with a toy or seeing another one ever so gently wrap its little arms around another because they miss their mom. Kids say exactly what they mean, and they pour their heart and soul into it. I think we could learn so much from children; they don't know how to be skeptical, or cynical, or jaded unless they've been exposed to situations in which deceit was involved. Children love life and embrace it with such vigor that they aren't aware of all the bad things that life could bring to you- and I am certainly not saying that we should expect such things to happen to us.

What I am saying is that there is so much good in life that does incredibly outweigh the potential bad things. I believe children understand this, most likely more subconsciously than consciously, and while we as adults are aware of these unfortunate things, we should not expect them.

We should embrace all of life with happiness and vigor and enthusiasm every day, just like when we found the most perfect toy to play with as a child.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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